November 26, 2018 Brigitte Ganger

How to Support a Friend Who Has Lost a Loved One

Tips for navigating the funeral service and beyond

How to Support a Friend Who Has Lost a Loved One
Friends need support in the days, months and years following a loss. (Shutterstock)

It is never easy for someone who has lost a member of the family, even when it comes at the end of a long life or a prolonged illness. The loss is always deeply felt and followed by a period of grief. Considering this, how can you help support a friend who has suffered such a loss? Here are seven simple suggestions. 


1. Be there for your friend


Expressing your support by being physically present with your friend is perhaps the single most appreciated action you can take. Because of the sensitive nature of the situation, many friends fail at this most basic task. Be sure to devote some time to spend with your friend in the days and weeks following the loss. 


2. Don't talk; listen


Your friend is likely experiencing a number of thoughts regarding the deceased, and you can be their sounding board. It is appropriate for you to offer the occasional comment in order to share personal recollections, express sympathy, and provide encouragement, but most of the time you should just listen to what they have to say, and empathize with the feelings they share. 


Allow your friend to work through volatile emotions, freely express grief without fear of judgment, and tell you how the deceased had an impact on his or her life. 


3. Provide childcare


If your friend has children, volunteer to take care of them for an afternoon or evening. Particularly if your friend has to make funeral arrangements to handle, your offer can allow them to focus on those responsibilities without the hassle of arranging for a babysitter. 


4. Drop off a meal


Prepare a home cooked meal and deliver it to your friend. There are enough things demanding their attention—preparing meals doesn't have to be one of them. However, don't pressure your friend to invite you to stay to share the meal. Rather than intruding on family time, simply drop the meal off and leave. 


5. Show up for memorial events


A day or two prior to many funerals, there are times designated for visitation. Often called a wake, this is an opportunity for people to gather to view the body and to express their condolences to the family. Show up for at least a few minutes during one of these times, and then do your best to attend the funeral itself. If you are unable to attend the funeral in person, at least check in periodically over the phone or online. 


6. Offer to help with the reception


If your friend is responsible for organizing a reception following the funeral, volunteer your services. 


There are a variety of ways you can help out. For instance, you can offer your home as a possible location. You could also help with preparations if the reception is to be held at another location. If sandwiches or sweets are desired, you could offer to prepare some. During the reception, you could assist as a host. Afterward, stick around to help clean up. 


7. Check in


Grief doesn't simply end after the funeral. In fact, after the funeral is when the journey through grief truly begins. Check in with your friend regularly after the death. Remember the anniversary of the loss and ask your friend how you can support them on this day. Offer your company, assistance and support through the months and years to come.


Allow your friend to relax and show honest emotions. Losing a loved one can be an intensely stressful and exhausting experience. Your friend should not have to put on a brave face or attend to your needs. Give them the space and freedom they need to process the loss, even if it extends well beyond the date of the funeral. 


Check in with your friend as they move through their grief. (Shutterstock)


By being sensitive to your friend's mental and emotional state—and by taking some responsibilities upon yourself—you can help remove some of the weight from their shoulders. Your support in these ways will go a long way toward helping your friend through this time of loss.


You might also be interested in Writing a Sympathy Note.

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